Five players Eagles should keep eyes on at NFL Combine (Braxton Miller, Jack Conklin and more)
The NFL Draft will be make or break for the Eagles this spring, and the Combine is key to their success.
The highly anticipated NFL combine will kick off in a week, as prospects begin arriving in Indianapolis on February 23. By then, Eagles fans may know the answer to their biggest question – will Sam Bradford be back? And if the answer is negative, all eyes may be quickly shifted to the quarterback position. If so, enjoy. If not, here are five players who have a chance to see their stock affected positively or negatively by the upcoming drills, and who all make some sort of sense for the Eagles to be eyeing come April.
Jack Conklin – OT, Michigan St
We’ll start with a player at a position most agree the Eagles need the most help from. The offensive line was downright awful in 2015, and with Jason Peters’ health and future unsure, the team needs a player they can count on opposite Lane Johnson.
Conklin has started his entire career at Michigan Stateand was an All-American in 2015. Eagles fans will be familiar with the name of the quarterback he was blocking for: Connor Cook. Conklin isn’t known for his athleticism, so the combine will be a good measuring stick on where he stands in the pre-draft process. He has the frame – 6-foot-6, 325 pounds – to remain at tackle in the NFL and replace Johnson at right tackle when Johnson inevitably moves to the left.
Interestingly, NFL.com compares Conklin to another offensive tackle who played his college ball in the state of Michigan: former Eagles great Jon Runyan. We’d take Runyan 2.0 in a heartbeat.
Vadal Alexander – G, LSU
We don’t need to harp on the offensive line needs any further. Last year many fans wanted to see the Eagles look closely at Alexander’s teammate on the Baton Rouge offensive line La’el Collins after an off the field issue caused Collins to plummet from a potential first rounder to meeting with team as an undrafted free agent. They did not show interest, and Collins wound up with the Cowboys.
Alexander played tackle this season for LSU after spending the previous two as a starter at guard. He earned first team All-SEC recognition at the spot. The main knock on Alexander is a lack of athleticism and quick feet, and it keeps many scouts from seeing him as a tackle in the pros. This doesn’t necessarily rule the Eagles out – they could sure use a guard. But Alexander’s combine will give him the chance to show teams he does have the athleticism necessary to play outside, and would certainly raise his stock. At 6-foot-5, 336 pounds, size isn’t an issue.
Karl Joseph – S,WVU
Malcolm Jenkins may be the best free agent signing the Eagles have made in quite some time, but the team – and fans –have never filled the void left by Brian Dawkins. They have come close to making noise at safety in the draft: In 2010, many thought they were trading up for Texas’ Earl Thomas, before they selected Brandon Graham. In 2014 all eyes were on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix before the Packers nabbed him one selection before the Eagles. Last year there was another Alabama safety available, Landon Collins, who the Eagles passed on for Nelson Agholor.
This year Karl Joseph is one of the top-rated safeties available. The combine will be a great chance to see how Joseph is recovering from a knee injury that put a stop to his senior campaign after five interceptions through four games. In his West Virginia career, Joseph intercepted nine passes and recovered five fumbles, forcing three. As a junior, he was first team All-Big 12.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
The Eagles have invested heavily in the wide receiver position, so dropping another first round pick on Laquon Treadwell, which is what he will likely warrant, may not be the most popular decision. But despite the first and third round picks spent on Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff, the Eagles have gained just 693 yards from the two of them combined.
Treadwell is the top rated receiver in this year’s class, but unlike the past few years, that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be off the board ten spots above the Eagles’ selection. Treadwell returned from a broken fibula to catch 82 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns in his junior season, including three scores in the Sugar Bowl.
The question mark on Treadwell is his deep speed, which means scouts will be paying close attention at the combine. Unless Treadwell taps into some unknown quickness for a forty-time different than what most are expecting, an average combine could ensure the Eagles have a chance at this playmaker.
Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Last year it was deep threat Devon Smith that had Eagles fans eyeing an Ohio State wide receiver. This year it’s Braxton Miller, who may be engendering the most draft hype of anyone to finish with 329 receiving yards in their only season playing the position.
Miller is better known at quarterback, where he was twice Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year before a shoulder injury forced him to miss the 2014 season. The emergence of J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones during that season caused Miller’s transition to receiver for his senior year, where he showed an early aptitude for the position.
The combine is another chance for Miller to increase the praise he’s been getting from both the regular season and the Senior Bowl. As a natural athlete, he should shine. He twice surpassed 1,000 yards rushing as a quarterback, and finished his career at Ohio State with 3,314 rushing yards.